Monday, August 15, 2005

anthropology of anthropologists


I travelled to Yaounde, Cameroon's capitol, recently to attend the annual conference of the Pan-African Anthropology Association. There were only two other linguistic anthropologists. Coincidentally, there was a Cameroonist there who's a PhD-candidate at the University of Toronto.

One of the panels was composed of chiefs from across the continent speaking on their ideas and strategies for good governance. This panel ended 4 hours late. A big part of the reason for that is that no one is in a position to say to a chief, "your time is up, we have to move on to the next speaker." Culture is everywhere.

While in the city, I splurged on a couple of moderately pricey restaurant meals. For one of them, I had pizza, which was fun. Cheese is really not available in this region except in restaurants.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think your main point is that every debate needs a moderator, and I agree. However what you describe sounds a lot like Premiers conferences in Canada. The only difference is that there is a definite timeframe for the the meetings here, but generally nothing ever gets done, except expulsion of hot air. Perhaps it might be better for us to avoid establishing a certain schedule for these meetings, but have them be more like a conclave, where no-one gets out of the room until the issue that brought up the meeting is resolved.

Just a thought,

Paul

Pat said...

That's how a low of international diplomacy actually does get concluded, it seems to this untutored observer--nothing gets formally agreed until the last day, then everyone stays up until they can't keep their eyes open any more and agree to whatever's on the table at the time. That's what got us the mixed blessing of the Kyoto Accord, I'll bet.